Sweden’s Castmill Open Sources Its CMS Software; Lays Out New Business Model

July 31, 2023 by Dave Haynes

The Swedish digital signage CMS software firm Castmill has taken the interesting step of open sourcing its solution, and then detailing how it makes money from something that’s been opened up as free to use by developers.

“Castmill was launched over a decade ago, a time span that has seen significant shifts in the landscape of digital signage, and although my personal experience with constrained devices and cloud technology was certainly beneficial, digital signage was quite new to me, leading to numerous mistakes and oversights,” writes CEO Manuel Astudillo in explaining the move. “The upcoming version, known as Castmill 2.0, represents the cumulative experience and knowledge we’ve gained over this journey. We are redesigning it from the ground up, introducing more robust and flexible features, while maintaining the ease of use and reliability our customers have come to appreciate. What makes Castmill 2.0 truly special is our decision to open source it. This move aligns with our belief in the power of community and shared innovation. By providing the digital signage community with access to our code, we aim to empower others to contribute, innovate and benefit from our platform.”

The company, based near Malmo and Copenhagen, says it is focused on several key aspects: boosted security and reliability, scalability and extensibility.

This post goes into what Castmill uses for its technology stack, as well as how its open source license works, notably how it is protected from the code being co-opted.

It also gets into business model, the part that always makes me curious about open sourcing by commercial companies.

Our main motivation with this move is to give as much value as possible. At the end of the day, that should be the goal of any business. We believe on ourselves and the value of our technology, so we just want people and business to use it, but in order to achieve this goal, we need income to fund this endeavour.

There will be 3 ways that will help us financing the future development of the platform:

  1. Managed versions of Castmill – Although you will be able to run your own instance of Castmill, you will have the option to leave the management to us. This hassle-free alternative is available for a competitive monthly fee;
  2. Custom development – While Castmill offers a comprehensive SDK for creating your own custom widgets and integrations, there may be occasions where the expertise of a seasoned team can provide valuable support, ensuring you’re covered at all times;
  3. Custom licenses – The AGPL license is a truly Open Source license with all that it entails. This license protects us from cloud giants that could take advantage of our efforts, but also to keeps the software healthy, with better chances to get contributions and improvements over its lifetime. For the legitimate cases where you absolutely cannot use AGPL licensed software we will be able to supply custom licenses for a certain fee.

A US company went down a similar path years ago, putting a commercial wrapper around the open source platform Concerto. That company is still around, suggesting it’s a viable model.

Leave a comment